Are we Myspace Friends?
The article “Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community into Being on Social Network Sites” by danah boyd was really interesting to me, as I was a part of the MySpace community from its relatively early days, and I had always found it fascinating how the ideas of friendship were mediated through the site, and especially with the Top 8, bulletins, and “MySpace whores” being a part of the site. The article was interesting to me because of also the many ways her writing can and cannot be applied to the newer social networks such as Facebook, and Google +.
In her piece, she goes into the “culture of Friending” on Friendster and MySpace, how it does support pre-existing social norms, but is quite different. For one, the idea of friendship varies from culture to culture, language to language, also the boundary between friend and acquaintance is very blurry. She talks about connecting vs. collecting on MySpace and Friendster, as at one point, one had to have 4 degrees or less of separation to view someone’s profile, and people would “friend” collectors to be able to have that wide base. That, in a way transferred over to Facebook, with “MySpace Whores” making train bulletins of people to add. This has definitely changed, I believe with Facebook and the newer social networking sites. Features have been added in on Facebook to be able to just subscribe to someone else’s posts, whether it be what would be termed as a “Fakester” on Friendster, coming more in line with Twitter and followers/following. I think with the advent of subscribing, the culture of “friending” has been shifting back towards established offline contact at least once.
I think it’s also important to bring in the idea of circles when talking about the culture behind friending today. Boyd mentions in her article that maybe someday we’ll be more in control, and today we are. We’re able to control content today much more than before and select the exact people it will or will not reach, regardless if they are in our friends list or not whether on Facebook or Google +. This in my opinion, leads to possibly less context collapse, her argument that “Teenagers, for example, have no way of being simultaneously cool to their friends and cool to their parents.” (15) needs to be altered—though it does require work, it is possible.
Boyd gives a list of the most common reasons for Friendship, the last being: “it’s easier to say yes than no.” I believe that since the big shift from MySpace to Facebook as the main social networking site, this idea has died out, along with it being less socially awkward not answering a Facebook friend request from someone you barely know, possibly to do with the way we share today.
Reading about the Top 8 in this article was interesting—how a whole system of social norms had developed around it. When Top 8 rolled around, I quickly disabled it through HTML, because automatically, I knew there would probably be some arguments from my group of four close friends who would go in which spot. Instead of displaying it publically, I used it on my MySpace home page as a bookmark keeper.
Boyd brings up a point after talking about the Top 8—“after people have been participating on MySpace for a while and understanding the social issues behind Top 8, some are more willing to just accept that it is a limitation of the system and take it less seriously.” (13) I think that quote resonates in social media networking, and maybe just the way we work in general. People come to accept changes to their social media platforms generally after a little bit of frustration, confusion and anger (New twitter, New Facebook, Timeline). It’s intriguing that people will always resist the change to the layout of their digital communities, they view it as an unnecessary change—then in time come to accept, or embrace it.
Friending as Context Creation is that through our friends we basically build and display our identity. I agree with this but I think that our friends’ performances don’t reflect as highly as they used to on us. Yes, we create context through the audience we’re addressing, but we’re a lot more in control of what and who is viewable, still people who don’t understand general privacy norms can attract an audience that was originally not their target as in this article by Kevin Collier on Mashable: Cops Nab Brooklyn Burglars After Friending them on Facebook. In this case, criminals had accepted the friend request of the NYPD—can you say context collapse!
Boyd was pretty on point with this quote: “as these sites proliferate and become more culturally embedded, I suspect that we will see shifts in how Friendship relates to offline relationship management.” (18) We have seen shifts, and users of social network sites, along with the platforms themselves are moving towards tools to manage offline relationships, but they will always serve as a platform to be informed and connect.